From charming boutiques to sleek global flagships, the New York retail scene was rocked by an influx of newcomers this past year. So many, in fact, that it was hard narrowing down the choices for my annual 10 Best list. After much deliberation, here are my picks:
C. Wonder: C. Wonder (the “C” stands for charming, chic and cheerful and the store is just that) is the latest venture from Christopher Burch, venture capitalist and a co-chairman of Tory Burch, his former wife’s fashion empire. The merchandise includes apparel, accessories and home-décor items, all sold under the C. Wonder label and all moderately priced. The colorful, upbeat 5,000-sq.-ft. store also has a high-tech bent. Customers can select the music they want to hear in the fitting rooms, and also adjust the lighting. The store also boasts a totally integrated RFID and POS system. (72 Spring St.)
Duane Reade: From its no-appointment-required "Doctor On Premises" service to its nail salon and hair-styling bar, this is not your mother’s drug store. Walgreens’ Duane Reade flagship is one of the most ambitious drug stores ever, with an expanded line up of services and merchandise (check out the food offerings). It even includes a virtual greeter, which uses the latest in holographic imaging and audio-visual technology to create of illusion of a real person.
(40 Wall St,)
Frye: Hard to believe, but this is the first store ever from the nearly 150-year-old veritable The Frye Co. The store houses Frye’s entire collection in a handsome, eco-friendly space that reflects the brand’s American heritage. (113 Spring St.)
Joe Fresh: The Canadian fast-fashion brand is known for its on-trend, colorful goods (from tangerine Neoprene coats to T-shirts in 32 hues) and its very affordable prices. The store interior is simple and contemporary — all the better for those bright colors to stand out. The brainchild of Joseph Mimran, who founded Club Monaco in 1985, Joe Fresh is now part of Loblaws Cos. Ltd.
(110 Fifth Ave., at 16th Street)
Ladurée: The first U.S. outpost of the famed centuries-old Parisian macaron shop (and now global chain) is a jewel box of pastry delights. The interior is comprised of a long counter displaying chocolates, the famed macarons, and small pastries and sorbet (just try to resist!). Nooks and crevices offer collections of candles, collector’s edition boxes, and signature towers of macarons. (864 Madison Ave., between 70th and 71st Sts.)
New Balance: The 4,000-sq.-ft. space is designed to reflect the heritage and spirit of the century-old brand -- and drive home its commitment to domestic craftsmanship (New Balance says it is the only athletic brand to manufacture shoes in the U.S.). Part of the upfront space is devoted to a glass-enclosed area where shoemakers from the company’s Maine factory can be seen assembling sneakers. Each pair is sold in a special “Assembled in NYC” bag stamped with the edition number and date made. The store also features a live video feed from New Balance’s manufacturing floor. (Fifth Ave., at W. 20th St.)
REI: Outdoor adventure gear and apparel retailer REI has converted the historic Puck Building in SoHo into its first store in New York City and as renovations go, this one is top shelf. The company has lovingly restored the building’s original architectural details, and added a spiral staircase that unites three levels of space. The illustrious history of the iconic building has been brought to life, with original items found in the building incorporated into display tables, fixtures and décor elements throughout the space. Check out the stone printing tablets (dating back to the 1900s and discovered during construction) displayed near the checkout on the cellar level. (295 Lafayette St.)
Sephora: The French beauty chose the hot Meatpacking District to debut its new format. The 5,000-sq.-ft. store features a completely mobile checkout, totally eliminating the cash wrap. In-store iPads allow customers to quickly access product information, ratings and reviews and QR codes for any item in the store. Beauty stations feature lighting that can be adjusted to six settings. (21-27 Ninth Ave.)
Treasure & Bond: With 100% of the store’s profits after expenses donated to charity, Treasure & Bond, owned by Nordstrom, gives new definition to the term “giving back.” In keeping with its SoHo locale, the merchandise has a funky, edgy appeal. So does the store environment, whose unfinished look includes exposed pipes and wooden shipping crates that double as display cases (the store is furnished mostly with materials discarded by Nordstrom stores nationwide). Think of it as a Nordstrom for your artsy, downtown younger sister. (350 W. Broadway)
Uniqlo: The new 89,000-sq.-ft., three-level flagship of the fast-growing Japanese apparel giant is the largest Uniqlo in the world, with 100 dressing rooms, 50 checkouts and staircases with color-changing LEDs. The state-of-the art video system boasts 500 LCD/LED screens. Check out the spinning mannequins on the first floor. (666 Fifth Ave.)
Runners-up: Swatch (666 Fifth Ave.), Carhartt (119 Crosby Street), Goorin Brothers (337 Bleecker St.), and the pretty-in-pink Benefit (454 W. Broadway).
Those are my picks. If you have any additions, or comments in general, send me an email.
Marianne Wilson is editor of Chain Store Age (firstname.lastname@example.org).